A splash of events celebrate the 37th Yampa River Festival this weekend | SteamboatToday.com

A splash of events celebrate the 37th Yampa River Festival this weekend

Kayakers crash into Charlie's Hole after the freestyle rodeo during the Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs.

Rivers in particular, have a way of changing, connecting, creating and capturing our imaginations through their pristine nature.

"I feel like there's nothing better than experiencing special places outdoors, especially areas with rich biological and cultural heritage," said Holley Gardel, Friends of the Yampa program coordinator. "I think places like this should be preserved for future generations to experience as well."

Whether it's a national monument or a river in Steamboat's backyard,  Gardel said it's important to take time to celebrate and preserve these areas, and this weekend, Friends of the Yampa  will be doing just that when the nonprofit presents the 37th annual Yampa River Festival.

The festivities kick off with the Fish Creek race at 6 p.m. Friday evening followed by a lineup of competitions for whitewater enthusiasts and spectators at noon Saturday starting with "Spiffy Dog Crazy River Dog Contest" and the open class downriver race.

“I love this event, as it brings together a fun-loving, adventure-filled community of people in celebration of one of Colorado’s most cherished rivers, the Yampa," said Kent Vertrees, Friends of the Yampa board secretary and one of the event’s organizers. "We are so fortunate to live in a place like Northwest Colorado and have such a wild river running through our world. Most rivers in the Colorado basin have been dammed, diverted and drained to the point where they don’t see the wildness like we do on the Yampa."

This year, Friends of the Yampa has joined a coalition of six national Friends groups receiving funding from the Conservation Lands Foundation to create a stronger voice on conservation efforts both locally and nationally.

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Smartwool has partnered with Friends of the Yampa to bring a postcard writing campaign to their festival booth as part of the public comment period for national lands, which is open until July 10. Other conservation-focused booths will include Yampa River State Park, American Whitewater, Conservation Colorado and the Community Agriculture Alliance.

Two new events this year are the Raft Rodeo, featuring teams of as many people as the raft can hold while surfing Charlie's Hole, and the Paddleboard Adventure Company SUP Cross competition, which involves a giant six-person SUPsquatch surfing Charlie's Hole to see how many people can stay on board.

A crowd favorite from past years has been the Tube Rodeo. Here the competitor who turns in the longest, most-graceful surf will win a golden tube and cash prize.

Spectators can watch Saturday’s action primarily at Charlie's Hole, behind Bud Werner Memorial Library, where the B&K and Grass Sticks Beer Tent, food and retail vendors will be stationed.

"The Yampa River Festival is, more than anything, a hometown event where layers of the Steamboat community come out and celebrate all things Yampa,” said Vertrees.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

37th annual Yampa River Festival schedule


Noon to 5:30 p.m. – Gear Swap and Registration, Backdoor Sports

6 p.m. — Fish Creek Race at Fish Creek Falls (via Steamboat Boulevard)


Noon to 7 p.m. – B&K and Grass Sticks Beer Tent, Charlie’s Hole

Noon — Spiffy Dog Crazy Dog River Dog Contest, Charlie’s Hole

Noon — Open Class Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

12:30 p.m. — HALA Gear SUP Cup: Downriver Race (Start location TBD)

2 p.m. — Steamboat Powdercats Raft Race (Start location TBD)

2:30 p.m. — The YETI Raft Rodeo, Charlie’s Hole

3 p.m. — The Paddleboard Adventure Company SUP Cross, Z Wave

3:30 p.m. — The Hog Island Tube Rodeo, Charlie’s Hole

4 p.m. — The Steamboat Lawyer Kayak Cross, Z Wave, Charlie’s Hole

5 p.m. — The Backdoor Sports Biggest Trick Contest, Z Wave – Charlie’s Hole

6 p.m — Awards at Charlie’s Hole


11 a.m. – Mountain Sports Kayak School Slalom Race, Dr. Rich Weiss Park